The Covid-19 Pandemic had affected the offshore education sector is a great extent. Students faced many challenges while they were hurrying to go back to their university during Spring 2021. During the Covid-19 Pandemic, many overseas students returned to their home country as the situation worsened. Many students were also on a vacation before the Pandemic grew out of control and were unable to return. They were greeted with new rules and regulations when they decided to return to their university.
The covid Pandemic had changed the whole world, and every sector, including the education sector, went standstill from early 2020. As the Pandemic soared, colleges and universities all over the world closed, and students were forced to return to their home country.
With time, colleges and universities are reopening, and students have to join their classes for this spring semester. But, as it seems, the visa rules are changed in significant countries, and students may have to find ways to return to their classes-
The US changes its Visa rules
Amidst the coronavirus Pandemic, the US administration changed its visa rules for students. The United States Immigration Department suspended the routine visa services through all of its embassies in March 2020. Most of the embassies are yet to open.
The US administration stated in July 2020 that students who are newly enrolled would be allowed to join their classes if they fulfil some conditions. As per the new rule, freshly registered students for the Spring 2021 semester will be allowed a student visa only if their colleges or schools can certify that they will take at least one course in person during the fall term. The Students and Exchange Visitor Program(SEVP) and the United States Immigration and Customs(USICE) also said that the universities or colleges would have to issue Form 1-20 or “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Students Status” to all of their international students, who want to take their classes online. Such students will not be given F-1 or M-1 visas.
Due to this new regulation, many students had to join their studies in the Fall season. Since many US consulate offices were not functional, students were forced to find alternative ways to get their visas. Some students had to travel to another city or to even another country to get their visas.
Clara Braga, a Brazilian student, faced the challenge as she decided to return to her studies. She had to fly to Panama as the US consulate in Brazil was closed. She obtained an emergency visa from Panama US Consulate in January 2021 and directly passed to her college.
Another student, EmreGuler, a student from Turkey, had to make repeated visits to the US consulate in Turkey to get his visa for the spring season. He was in touch with the consulate officials for nearly six months and had to take a four-hour drive regularly to ensure he got his visa.
The rule is also changed for the UK
Amidst the Pandemic, the Visa rules for the UK also changed a lot. During May 2020, students were given an extension of visas till 31st July 29029 if they were unable to leave the UK due to lockdown or self-isolation. They were also asked to return to their home countries as soon as possible.
The government decided to issue guidelines for the new graduate route for the spring 2021 session. According to the rule, students taking their college education in distance learning or regular mode or a blended mode would be allowed on a concessionary basis. The rule would apply to students even if they had to return to their home countries due to Pandemic.
The UK officials stated that students would be able to get this concession if they enter the UK before 6th April 2021 and can complete their final semester in the UK in-person.
Visa problems plague even students in Australia
Australia, the oceanic country that is also a favourite spot for offshore students, released new student visa rules. The government started to recommence their visa services to offshore students, but there were many limitations.
After the international flights resumed, the students who had existing visas were allowed to enter Australia if they fulfilled some conditions. Students who had a post-study work visa were allowed to enter Australia if they had completed all previous semesters via online mode during the Pandemic.
The newly enrolled students were given extra time to furnish their English language results due to the covid-19 Pandemic. They were also given some spare time for health checks and other services.
Nevertheless, many newly enrolled students encountered obstacles as they could not find a functional consulate in their country.
Students who study in Canada are also facing problems
Students who enrolled in Candian universities also faced the heat of Visa rule change. The Canadian government released many rules and regulations to ensure the country was safe from Covid-19. The government said that it would only also students visas to those who have received their study permit before 18th march 2020 or are travelling for an essential purpose.
Michelle Suderman, the UBC International Student Department director, said in an interview in October 2020 that students may need to wait for a more extended period to get their approval.
For example, IliasOuali, who has taken admission in fine arts at a Candian University, said that he developed a habit of regularly checking his emails. He was accepted in UBC and tried to find if he was eligible to take his classes for the first semester. This young student from Paris decided to check through the FAQs section to check the Canadian student visa eligibility. He added that he was unsure of the visa and did not know how to attend the classes.
As the Pandemic is coming under control, students are eager to rejoin their classes. But, the complex or new visa rules have made many confused. Some students cannot return as they do not know how to approach; some have decided to wait and watch. With time, countries would ease their rules and would allow more student visas. Due to the recent change, many students may have to face some extra challenges initially. But, we can hope that everything will be back to normal as soon as possible.